It should come as no surprise to many of you who tune into the live stream at live.pirillo.com that I — this damn Scotsman — like simulator games. I don’t like adding “games” to the end of that description, but that leads into a full-on philosophical discussion on whether or not simulators have an ultimate purpose and if you can count flying, driving, or truckin’ as the ultimate purpose — thus making the simulator a game. However, I will not bore you or get bogged down in that discussion. This is my — personal — top five because, like reviewing a keyboard or a wheel, it is all subjective and what I may like, you may not. So I thought I’d make it clear — from the start — that this article is my top five and you have every right to disagree with me and to discuss your simulator games in the comments below. Shall we get started?
Railworks 3 (Originally Rail Simulator)
Railworks 3 has pretty much taken over from Microsoft Train Simulator as the train simulator that everyone knows. There are other train simulators like Trainz Simulator and BVE Trainsim, but Railworks — and its original name Rail Simulator — is the main simulator that is getting the attention of developers. I have placed Railworks at the bottom of my list purely because I can’t play it thanks to the limits of my computer’s graphics card. This simulator is graphics intensive and even on its low setting I get less than 5 fps (frames per second), which makes this simulator almost completely unplayable. I should point out that it is the best experience available for PC and that, if you have a powerful graphics card, it is excellent.
Ship Simulator Extremes
Ship Simulator Extremes is built by Vstep and it has done an absolutely amazing job with this simulator. Vstep has tried to walk the fine line between making the simulator playable for the regular user whilst keeping the simulator as realistic as possible. The simulator isn’t as realistic as it could be, but I am sure that Vstep is working on a way to up the realism within ship simulator extremes or its next iteration. I’d love to still be able to play this simulator, but like Railworks, I can’t because this simulator is also graphics intensive. However, in my opinion, Ship Simulator Extremes just edges Railworks on user play and enjoyability. The other major plus is that Vstep’s downloadable content is cheaper than the £40-50 that Railworks asks for. I understand that developers have to eat and live, but I do think that £40-50 for one locomotive is a bit extreme.
LFS (Live For Speed)
LFS is my favourite racing simulator of all time. I’ve played others like rFactor and the others on console, but LFS just edges away for me. It may not be as aesthetically pleasing as rFactor but I think rFactor looks too “cartoony” and not real. I also feel like I have more control over the car in LFS like there is more grip and I can feel when I start losing that grip and can correct for that. It’s all a case of preference — LFS and rFactor are both great, but I like LFS better. I know many racers who prefer rFactor and tell me that they have more control on rFactor compared to LFS, but for me it’s the opposite way around. LFS has a wide choice of vehicles to race with both front and rear-wheel-drive road and race cars are available to you as is the 2006 BMW Sauber F1.06. Also, LFS and rFactor don’t require that you have a top-of-the-line graphics card. They are not very graphics intensive and can give you hours of enjoyment.
OMSI (Der Omnibus Simulator)
OMSI is the first bus simulator that I’ve actually enjoyed playing. There have been others like Bus Driver and City Bus Simulator, but they have never felt realistic. OMSI does feel realistic and is a lot like LFS in the sense of you are in the driver’s seat and you have control of these eight or so tonnes of metal and rubber. Bus Driver doesn’t feel like that, and while City Bus Simulator does get close, sorry, no cigar, as they say. OMSI also allows you to download new maps, buses, AI vehicles, scenery objects, and other various mods to make the simulator even more realistic. OMSI isn’t particularly graphics intensive and I do really enjoy driving a bus around these fictional and real life routes and maps. These maps and routes — or at least the ones that I’ve downloaded so far — seem to be free, but there aren’t many add-on buses that look or play nice with OMSI. I’m hoping that the developers of these buses will sort this out soon or the OMSI developers will make a better SDK (software developer kit).
FSX (Flight Simulator X)
FSX is by far my favourite simulator of all time. I have logged well over 5,000 hours both as an air traffic controller and as a pilot. These hours have been logged over several different “virtual airlines” and over different servers like VatSim and IVAO. Microsoft has decided to re-think its Flight Simulator franchise and has come up with Flight. I’ve tried it in demo and I don’t like the fact that I won’t be able to do my long-haul flights in a PMDG 747 or my short hops in an Airbus A319. However, I know that there are still people who swear by Flight Simulator 2004 and won’t move away from it the same as there will be people — like me — who won’t move away from FSX. Precision Manuals Development Group — the aforementioned PMDG — build some of the best planes for FSX both in terms of detail and quality and I would recommend for anyone who is into FSX or FS2004! I will point out that FSX is seriously graphics and processor intensive.
What is you favourite simulator? Do you like simulators? Do you have anything more to add? Here’s the place to tell us all about it!